The UK Government is inviting small and medium-sized businesses in Scotland to bid for more than £10bn worth of contracts on offer with the High Speed Two (HS2) rail project.

A conference has been held in Edinburgh to help Scottish companies become HS2 ready and provide specific technical information on how to compete for the contracts, including design and construction, and a wide range of other services such as signalling and telecommunications.

More than 160 firms, including companies from Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Dundee and Inverness, attended the event.

HS2 is part of the government’s plan to rebalance the UK economy and build a Northern Powerhouse by providing high-speed rail services from London to the Midlands and the North.

"Our government’s groundbreaking HS2 programme provides a fantastic opportunity for businesses across the UK, including those here in Scotland."

UK Transport Minister for HS2 Robert Goodwill said: "Our government’s groundbreaking HS2 programme provides a fantastic opportunity for businesses across the UK, including those here in Scotland. It will create some of the largest value contracts in UK construction history, creating job opportunities throughout the supply chain."

Construction of the first phase of the proposed HS2 is scheduled to start in 2017 between London and Birmingham, with proposed extensions to Manchester and Leeds under the second phase.

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When the first phase opens in 2026, the new high-speed trains will run to Edinburgh and Glasgow.

The second phase of HS2 is expected to open in 2033, during which the journey time will be reduced to 3h and 38min, with a seamless transition of trains onto the East and West Coast main lines.

Scotland Infrastructure, Investment and Cities cabinet secretary Keith Brown said: "I have always maintained that we must extend the high-speed rail network further and faster to Scotland, in order to deliver significant economic benefits by boosting growth and providing more and better opportunities.

"Not only are the effective transport connections that a high-speed rail network entails vital in ensuring that our businesses are able to compete and grow, but Scotland’s world-class supply chain businesses can also play a key role in delivering this project, building skills, capability and jobs for the next generation."

A study commissioned by Transport Scotland and the UK Department for Transport (DfT) on potential route options to Scotland is expected at the end of this year.

It is expected that around 60% of these contract opportunities will go to small or medium sized businesses.

In September, chancellor George Osborne has opened the bidding process for phase one of the HS2.

He invited Chinese firms to bid for seven contracts worth £11.8bn to build the line, including the surface route and tunnels.

The seven contracts are split over northern, central and southern areas along the phase one route.

Subject to ministerial decisions later in the year, there will also be an option for additional contracts covering the route north of Birmingham.